Satan’s most successful trick is to get us to race to false finish lines. He works tirelessly to get us to stop short and say, “We’ve made it!” He delights when he sees us fall or pull over to the wayside only to notice at the last moment that the finish line is still ahead. The apostle knew of what he spoke when he said, “I press toward the mark, forgetting those things that are behind” (see Phil. 3:13-14).
(The God Chasers, 73)
The first modern Olympics was held in 1896 in Athens, Greece, where the game also returned in 2004 after the centennial event was held earlier in Atlanta Georgia in 1996. In 2000, it was held in Sydney, Australia. According to historians, the first ancient Olympic was held in 776 BC in Greece.
In the Olympics, false starts are common and there are many who start the race but do not finish either due to injury, lack of energy and the like. False starters in an athletic event get a first warning and after the second warning, they are usually dismissed from the event. No matter how much they prepared or whether they would have been first, they have no chance to show their talent or win the prize. An example was Linford Christie, the 1992 Olympic British-born 100m champion, who could not defend his title due to two false starts and was disqualified in the event in Atlanta 1996. I watched that event live on TV. You can watch it on YouTube. It was a test of nerves. That race was won by Donovan Bailey of Canada. A more notorious Athlete in the event was Ben Johnson who, in 1988, tested positive for steroids and set a superhuman record of 9.50 seconds, a record he boasted would be unequaled for 50 years. Needless to say he was banned for life from ever participating in an Olympic event.
The 2018 men’s 100m current world record holder is the Jamaican-born Usain Bolt, who dashed from the starting blocks like lightning and powered on to the finish line, holding the Olympic and world record at 9.58s set in 2009. The current women’s world record is 10.49s set by the late American Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988, a record that has lasted for about 30 years. I love the 100m dash because literally, the whole world stands still for 10s while the events play-out and athletes, spectators and officials are all tense, waiting for who would win the race.
Pertaining to spiritual matters, Christ said, “The first shall be last and the last first”. That would be fun to watch, at least by the angels, except that it is a much more serious matter when there would be much weeping and wailing, and joyous moments for those who are truly first in the eyes of Christ. Jesus is the one who recognizes the efforts saints put in by His grace in promoting the cause of His kingdom and He will reward us in due time. As said in 1 Cor. 4:5, “ Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” In this verse, praise means reward.
In the Olympics, there are different medals. There is gold, silver and bronze medals. Gold is reserved for the best overall athlete or competitor, silver for the second best and bronze for the third best. There is usually no medals for others but they may receive praise or complementary prizes for their participation and sportsmanship. Those who do not win at all are sometimes cheered on to the finish line by the spectators. So there is a reward for participation and there is a reward for finishing well.
For the saints, the Bible says in 2 Cor. 5:10, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. That is called BEMA, an acronym for the platform ancient Olympians stood to receive their rewards. A time is coming for the reward from Christ but right now let us identify clearly the finish line, and race well. Note that the race is not always for the fastest nor for the strongest, but sometimes time and chance may determine the victors and losers (Eccl. 9:11). That is where God’s timing comes in. As said by Paul, he was born in due time to be an apostle to the gentiles (1 Cor. 15:8). What if he was born a hundred years earlier or a hundred years later? He would not live in the same century that Christ came to the earth.
The work God assigned to Paul was clear to Paul from the beginning. He had asked God at his conversion on the road to Damascus, “what will you have me do Lord”, and God told him through Ananias the prophet, “I have chosen you to be my witness to the gentiles (Acts 9:6, 15-16; Acts 22:21; Gal. 2:8; 1 Tim 2:17).
So Paul knew what he signed for when he turned to Christ and preached Him. We may not have had the same dramatic conversion as he had, but nonetheless we are sure we have met Christ and are saved. Why are we not so determined as he to be sold out totally for Christ? Towards the end of his life Paul said in 2 Tim 4:7-8, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Paul saw the finish line and raced towards it. He had cautioned earlier in 1 Cor. 9:24-27 that a boxer who wants to give his opponent a technical knockout in a boxing challenge has to fight well and according to the rules. Are you fighting well? Do you see the finish line? Is your opponent wearied or is he wearying you. The Lord help us to accomplish and conquer. We have the victory in sight in Jesus name. Amen!